How to structure virtual meetings

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Hosting a virtual meeting can be hard. Without being face to face, virtual meetings certainly require more preparation and tech-savvy.

But effective virtual meetings do exist. And the guidelines to accomplish them are not all that difficult to adopt.

A successful meeting relies on everyone’s contribution to the team as a whole. So making a meeting a collaborative space is crucial. And don’t be afraid to add some fun virtual entertainment to the meeting for good measure!

Below are some tips on how to structure your virtual meeting. Hopefully, this guide can help you engage team members, address action points, and make for a successful virtual meeting and experience.

How to structure virtual meetings

See Related: Virtual Team Building Activities

Coordinate the logistics

Avoid an error by establishing the logistics of the meeting. Make sure the leaders are clear so participants feel confident contributing.

Follow these guidelines to ensure that all logistics are squared away. And make sure that your meeting can go off without a hitch.

#1. Establish a group calendar

Any successful meeting starts with good organization. And a great way to get everyone on the same page is to create a group calendar.

Start by sending out a calendar invite for meetings. This will give people enough time to plan their week and other responsibilities.

The calendar invite may also include a list of topics or an agenda. This outline can act as a guide for team members. This way, they will show up to the meeting prepared.

#2. Create a notification system

Remote teams are often working across different time zones. So notifications help to keep attendees on time (that is, their respective ones).

Luckily, virtual platforms include features like notifications. This ensures that everyone will get a reminder 15 minutes before calls – enough time to check in with the agenda and enter the virtual room confidently.

Organizations can also be at the head of sending out notifications. If the virtual platform you are using does not have such a tool, make sure the host keeps everyone on track.

#3. Decide on a virtual platform

There are a number of apps to choose from when it comes to virtual meeting technology. But choosing the right one for your team’s internet connection is crucial.

Zoom is a video and audio conferencing tool that allows you to record meetings and share screens. This makes the platform perfect for giving presentations.

Google Meet is a communication tool that allows you to share videos, desktop screens, and presentations as well. Team members can also use the chat-box tool to communicate through text during calls.

Skype is another video and audio chat service. It possesses the tools to implement subtitles during the conversation, making for a unique functionality feature.

Different companies will find what platform works best for them. But all participants must be able to access the platform with ease.

#4. Plan out the agenda

Make sure that each team member has a copy of the agenda before the meeting begins. This will add structure to the video conference overall by providing the rules and layout beforehand.

If these team meetings happen on a regular basis, keep the same kind of structure if possible. Planning new ways to run and organize the call each week will become confusing.

Find an agenda that works and stick with it. Of course, the content will vary. But the overall presentation of the meeting should remain relatively straightforward.

#5. Conduct a “technical startup”

A wonky mic or video can be incredibly distracting. So start your meetings with a “technical startup.”

Allow people the time to get situated with their cameras and microphones. Remind them of any technology tools they will need during the meeting.

This can be as short as 5 minutes at the start of the meeting. It just allows people the time to check in with their internet connection to hopefully make for smooth sailing.

Bonus: How To Ensure People Are Communicating Effectively In Virtual Meetings

Set the overall intentions

The logistics of a meeting seemingly take care of everything and everyone, right? Wrong. The intention behind the meeting should also be crystal clear. 

A meeting without intention can go awry quickly. Unnecessary conversations will be had. Time will have been wasted.

So make sure that you know exactly what you hope to get out of the meeting before you start it. And ensure that everyone is on the same page too.

Virtual meetings should be respectful of all team members

#1. Establish a clear objective

Meetings should feel well-organized. But they should also feel worthwhile and respectful of everyone’s time.

A clear objective will limit unnecessary conversation. Of course, professional rapport will still be allowed. But employees should not feel like their time could be better spent.

Try sticking to general topics that involve everyone on the team. Individual conversations can be had at other times. But organizing many participants means that they all must feel included.

Meetings should allow you the opportunity to take advantage of everyone being there. Focus on the big picture of things to do. And team meetings will feel more efficient and worthwhile. Like a comic delivering a joke, know how to set up and deliver the information effectively.  

#2. Acknowledge all participants in the room

Leaders should ensure that all team members feel recognized and seen. So going into a meeting with the intention of doing just that will enhance the virtual experience.

Everyone on the call should know each other. So take time in the beginning to introduce everyone. Allow them to develop a healthy rapport before diving into the agenda.

Meetings with several participants might not allow for such introductions. But there are many ways to implement that team atmosphere.

If you notice a person has not spoken up yet, ask for their opinion. Tailor the language of the meeting to reflect the ideals of the team.

Or, allow everyone to collectively contribute to a shared document. During meetings, the agenda could benefit from having additional notes added to it.

Give all participants the opportunity to add something. This way, if a person does not want to speak over the call, they can contribute through text.

Then, upon reading over the agenda, you will find that the meeting was more efficient than you thought. Use these tools and features to your advantage. And they will help everyone feel valued as well.

#3. Facilitate an open mic

This is not an open mic in the comedy club sense. This is an open mic as in a shared mic.

A coordinated meeting should always have one leader or host. And that host or master of ceremonies should ensure that all participants have the chance to speak.

Try implementing some of these tips below. Introverted participants might need that extra push during team meetings:

  • Ask a participant of their opinion on the task at hand
  • Request a quick update from someone who hasn’t spoken up yet
  • Ask if a team member has anything to add
  • Check-in with team members to make sure they are not overwhelmed with their work
  • And if they are, call upon other team members to help them out

#4. Create a respectful atmosphere

Sometimes, meetings can get heated. But they should never become disrespectful.

The added virtual element makes this all the more important. People are more likely to be rude online than in person.

Establish some ground rules to ensure that teams remain cordial and productive. Remind participants to be aware of their body language and tone.

As the person in charge, you are able to set the tone. But if there are times when a break is needed, take a break.

World events can additionally have an impact on remote teams. Everyone is operating in a different time zone and reality.

If participants need time to cool off, suggest a reflection period afterward. Take those heated moments as opportunities to implement further collaboration.

#5. Hone your active listening

Going into a meeting, you may have a clear and specific agenda. But be sure that the agenda still allows you time to listen.

Action points are great and integral for the functionality of a meeting. But active listening allows participants to remain engaged.

Set your intention to actively listen to those within the meeting space. Make it your goal to listen to each person speaking and reflect back on what they have said.

This will strengthen your rapport with team members. And it will remind you to give just as much space as you take up.

The etiquette of virtual meetings

Like in-person meetings, there is a type of etiquette people should follow. Virtual meetings can automatically feel more relaxed since people are working from home.

But a part of structuring efficient meetings is to maintain that level of professionalism. Below are some tips to keep everyone on the call respectful and communicative.

Prepare for your virtual meeting with these tips

#1. Implement a video-on policy

Some technology tools will give you the option to engage through only audio. But keeping the video on actually helps team members communicate better with each other.

Like face-to-face encounters, video allows attendees to observe non-verbal clues. What someone is saying is important. But how they say it and what body language they use is also valuable to take in.

Video also allows people to put a face to a voice. Remote team members may not have had the chance to meet in person. So video presentation of coworkers helps to humanize the process.

#2. Discourage multitasking

Multitasking actually harms productivity. So people in virtual meetings should be focused on the task at hand.

If you have an article or link to share, still feel free to send it. But remind attendees that they should look into these resources after the meeting has ended.

And unless the link or article pertains to everyone, maybe don’t include them in the conversation at all. Stay focused on the content in the meeting. Don’t let your precious planning go to waste.

#3. Remind team members to dress the part

Again, virtual meetings can sometimes conjure the image of people in their pajamas. But encourage your team to dress professionally.

This will drastically change the feel of your meetings. With participants all dressed up, they will be more motivated to get things done.

Many distractions can come up during virtual meetings. So check clothing and attire off your list by encouraging workers to wear something appropriate.

#4. Keep the meeting short and sweet

Virtual meetings can be tiring, perhaps more so than in-person ones. So the most effective virtual meetings are kept on a tight time schedule.

Giving people limited time helps them to remain focused and productive. This is not to say that you should sabotage the meeting all together with time constraints. But meetings should not drag on for hours.

Stick to the main talking points and encourage others to do the same. Long meetings with too much content can feel both boring and overwhelming.

Combat those feelings with preparation and precision. And your virtual meeting will feel like something worth everyone’s time.

#5. Always end with the next steps

It might not seem like it, but ending a meeting with the next steps is a form of etiquette. It allows attendees to feel that there are still things to accomplish.

Reserve 5 to 10 minutes to wrap up and distribute further work. Even take the time to consider whether a follow-up meeting should be scheduled.

This will all help to motivate participants to continue communicating and collaborating with each other. If a meeting wraps up abruptly, participants can feel confused and lost.

Make sure there is a tangible takeaway. And the virtual meeting will have served a purpose greater than itself.

Virtual meetings and events going forward

Make your virtual meeting worthwhile and efficient

Meeting with people in person does not feel like a far-off possibility anymore. But it is still likely that virtual meetings and remote working will continue to be with us even past coronavirus restrictions.

These tips should help you navigate the virtual work world. And hopefully, your meetings will only benefit from this guide.

Above all, virtual meetings should be a space that brings people together. So any opportunity you have to enhance collaboration is something to keep your pulse on.

Keep Reading: How Many Calories Does Laughing Burn?

Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speakers for hire